The Promotional Mpesa Scam

Scam lords are out there every day crafting a new way to get your money. We will all be safe if we know their tricks in advance.

The target of late seems to be the various promotions running in the waves. You will be forgiven if you fall for it as these guys usually have their research well done.

Among the latest additions to the list is the Feelanga Free/Mpesa ATM withdrawal scam. Unlike the traditional Mpesa scams that required you to send money for various reasons, such as to process or make arrangements for your lottery winning, job vacancies placements, travel to Mombasa for a given job, name it, this latest approach involves tricking you into withdrawing cash from an ATM while you are actually not at the ATM. And what follows? Someone will take the cash dispensed and whom do you guess that person is gonna be?


Let me now get into the nitty gritty of the scam based on the attempt to swindle my money today morning.

At around 4 am in the morning, I received an SMS message stating:

Airtel KE

Dear customer,

You have been awarded a prize of Kshs. 100,000 in our FEELANGA FREE PROMOTION. Call us urgently. Thank you.

I guess you can already see the red flags. To start with, why would a company as large as Airtel request you to call them instead of calling you. After all, telecommunication is their business and they would incur no charges at least upfront, right?

Secondly, why would they call me on a Weekend (well may be they could but it is also unlikely) and why at 4 am in the morning? Well, you will soon understand why, just keep reading.

With all the doubts I had, I decided to give these guys a shot to understand what their real motive is, so I called them and a guy with an impeccable accent picked the phone). Then he went ahead to explain how they had been trying to reach me since the previous day (Saturday) without success. He also explained that the reason for calling was, as the message had already informed me, to award me the cash prize of Kshs. 100,000 which I had won in the FEELANGA FREE Promotion following a random computer selection.

Well, it is true I had been unavailable on the Airtel number for the kitu two hours on Saturday after problems trying to connect to the internet with Safaricom while in the midst of an important site maintenance forced me to use the Airtel line. So, I had no issue with the point of trying to call me and eventually sending me the SMS. It could also explain why they asked me to call them urgently.

Moving ahead…

The nice guy enquired where I am based and I answered him and he further explained the details of the winning saying:

“Before you go on please note that you don’t have to pay anything to claim your prize and we are aware that some companies pretending to be Zain Kenya have been conning people by asking people to send an amount of money first to have their prizes processed and we at Zain will never do that. There were a total of 30 winners generated by our computer system yesterday and you happen to be one of them based on an airtime loaded on May 5th 2011. We have been able to give cash to two of them who were based in Nairobi. We could as well have invited you to Zain center to collect your cash but unfortunately we are holding an important meeting with our shareholders from India starting at 2 am this morning. We of course could also send you the cash via Zap but our system is undergoing a routine maintenance service at the moment…”

Notice how smart this guy is at addressing my objections long before I raise them. We go on

“…Luckily, we have been able to request our nice friends at Safaricom to send the cash to you on our behalf. So if you have an Mpesa registered Safaricom number then we can send the cash to you right away.”

The guy then asked for my Mpesa number which I gave to him and he went on to ask if it is currently active since, as he explained, I needed to continue getting some instructions on withdrawal using the current actively Zain call.

Here is where I sensed an alarm. You see, it is very easy for someone to hypnotize you and make you take their desired actions especially when you have no time to mull over their directions. So, I decided not to follow their instructions live.

On that note, I switched the Safaricom number off and asked instead to write the instructions down on a piece of paper, and then execute them later to which they immediately agreed. So the guy went ahead.

“Like I said, we charge nothing to have your cash prize of Kshs. 100,000 sent to you. We will send you the cash in two installments via Mpesa. Then we will link you to a Nation media journalist called…”

Ouch! I forgot the name given.

“If you have a pen and a paper, please note these instructions down”, the nice ‘Zain guy’ went on.

Of course the first step explained is to go to Safaricom Mpesa menu on my phone. Next I was told to select “ATM Withdrawal” and that instead of using the Agent number I should use the authorization number which was… the guy hesitated as if searching for it and went on.

“The authorization number for your FEELANGA FREE PRIZE claim is 286286. Once you have entered the code, our systems will automatically detect your transaction and link it to your prize and all you have to do is to enter your Mpesa pin.”

That was the last red flag I was waiting and I was now sure that this nice “Zain guy” was just another con looking to savor my hard earned cash while I scratch my head in agony and remorse.

So I immediately cut him short asking, “You said that this was an announcement for my prize won in Feelanga Free Promotion from Zain, right? And you said that I have to withdraw the cash via Mpesa? Before I go on, could you please tell me the Zain customer care number?”

The guy seemed to now get impatient and revolted that if I didn’t want to claim my Kshs 100,000 which was by the way supposed to expire by 5 am in the morning (LOL), then I was not obliged to. At this instance I asked him to let me call customer care first and verify the information given then I would get back to him soonest, to which he agreed. I tried calling the number a while ago and it is still on. By the way, the number is 0739166976


HowKE Team

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